Actress Valentina Cortese began appearing in Italian films at age 15. Attaining stardom in the 1948 Anglo-French production The Glass Mountain (1948), Cortese was brought to the U.S. to co-star opposite Orson Welles in Black Magic (1949). She was then signed to a contract by Darryl F. Zanuck, who emphasized her Mediterranean background by changing the spelling of her name to Cortesa. One of her starring films was 1951's The House on Telegraph Hill, in which she appeared with Richard Basehart, to whom she was married from 1951 to 1970. By 1952, Cortese had struck out in Hollywood, and was back making pictures in Europe and England; ironically, it was during this period that she essayed her best-known role in an American-produced film: Countess Eleanora Torlato-Favrini in The Barefoot Contessa (1954). Surviving long past the "young female lead" stage, Cortese did some of her finest work in her middle years. When Ingrid Bergman, accepting the 1974 "Best Supporting Actress" Academy Award for her minor role in Murder on the Orient Express, announced to the world that she thought the prize should have gone to Valentine Cortese for her bravura performance as a drink-besotted film star in Truffaut's Day for Night (1973), there were quite a few out there in Televisionland who wholeheartedly agreed.